Was Ben Carson A Democrat? The Conservative Doctor Has A Pretty Surprising Political Past
In an interview on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Ben Carson laid down his immigration and abortion policies while also describing the ways that his politics have drastically changed over the years. It turns out that Ben Carson used to be a Democrat who once was pro-choice. Carson was asked about his former political leanings after State of the Union host Jim Acosta played a clip of the former neurosurgeon on a news segment in 1992. During that time, Carson had initially been featured in videos about an abortion referendum.
In the video clip, Carson is shown side-stepping his own comments following a newscaster's introduction about the issue by clarifying that he wasn't advocating for people to vote for or against the referendum but rather suggesting that they educate themselves about abortion and the referendum. Following the video clip, Carson clarified his former political affiliations at the time as well as how he ultimately feels about abortion. Carson said:
I make no bones about the fact that I used to be a Democrat. I used to be a pretty left-wing Democrat, in fact. Over the course of time, my views have changed very dramatically. In 1992, I personally was against abortion, but I was not for causing anybody else to do anything. I was pro-choice in that region. I have changed because I have learned a lot of things. And I began to think about, if abolitionists a long time ago had said, I don't believe in slavery, but anybody else can do it if they want to, where would we be today? So, that changed my opinion of a lot of things.
The path from Carson's liberalism to his current status as a Republican presidential hopeful wasn't straightforward. Carson says he was a "rabid" Democrat during his college career at Yale from 1969 to 1973 and that it was Ronald Reagan's orations that changed his political leanings in the 1980s. To Carson, what Reagan had to say in general simply made more sense to him. "I grew up in an environment where you were supposed to be Democrat, where they told you that Republicans were evil people and that they were racist," Carson said in a Fox News interview in February. Carson came of age in Detroit during the height of the civil rights movement where being a Democrat was the norm, thus he was used to his friends, family, and neighbors perpetuating a pro-liberal narrative.
Following his initial switch to Republicanism, Carson then changed his status to Independent in the 1990s, citing a dissatisfaction with the party in the wake of President Bill Clinton's impeachment. It wasn't until Carson's impassioned speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 that he began to reconsider joining the GOP. Though it is unclear, what, exactly drew him back to declaring himself a conservative, he switched back to being a Republican the following year. In an interview with The Washington Times, Carson had this to say about his decision:
It's truly a pragmatic move because I have to run in one party or another. If you run as an independent, you only risk splitting the electorate. I clearly would not be welcome in the Democratic Party, and so that only leaves one party.
Despite not being a lifelong Republican, GOP voters tend to agree with what Carson has to say. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday, Carson had risen to the third most popular candidate, behind Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, and was polling at 8 percent.